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Ampatuan massacre witness ambushed in the Philippines

This statement was originally published on ifj.org on 11 December 2014.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) in expressing concern over the attack on yet another witness in the trial against those accused of the Ampatuan Massacre. Five years on from the deadliest massacre of journalists in history, justice is still denied.

On Wednesday, December 10, 2014, former Maguindanao mayor of Datu Salibo Akmad Baganian Ampatuan was attacked in an ambush on his Army-escort convoy on the boundary of Guindulungan and Talayan, near Maguindanao in the southern Philippines. Ampatuan, a relative of the principal accused and a prosecution witness was attacked 17 days after the fifth anniversary of the massacre in which 58 people were brutally murdered, including 32 journalists.

The ambush follows an attack on two witnesses in the week leading up to the fifth anniversary of the massacre, which resulted in the death of Dennis Sakal, the former driver of ex-Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. Sakal was the fourth witness to be killed since the massacre on November 23, 2009. He and Sukarno 'Butch' Saudagal were ambushed and fired upon on November 18, as they were on their way to Shariff Aguak to meet their lawyers and formalize their testimonies for the court case.

Rowena Paraan, chairperson of the NUJP said: "It is clear that the slow pace of the trial, which has barely cleared the starting gate after more than five long years because of what have been characterized as delaying tactics, has allowed the continued intimidation, threats and assaults on witnesses and even relatives of the 58 victims, 32 of whom were our colleagues."

"We reiterate our demand for government to fulfill its pledge of justice by ensuring not just a swift but, most importantly, a fair trial and to fulfill its obligation to protect everyone involved in the Ampatuan Massacre trial" said the NUJP.

The IFJ Asia Pacific office said: "It is outrageous that justice has still not been delivered and impunity remains in the case of the massacre. The fact that witnesses are been ambushed and in some cases killed is deplorable. The culture of impunity in the Philippines runs rife across the country and threatens the safety of the population. Witnesses to this massacre, or crimes in general should not be punished, yet they continue to suffer and perpetrators get off scot-free."

The IFJ and NUJP just finished an international mission to the Philippines to mark the fifth anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre, in which they visited the massacre site and met with victims' families in Maguindanao, and met with government officials in Manila to discuss the culture of impunity in the Philippines. Read more about the mission.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
What other IFEX members are saying
  • Ending impunity is a state responsibility

    The Ampatuan Massacre in fact occurred in 2009 in the context of what has been emboldening the killers: the culture of impunity, or the exemption from punishment of wrongdoers. The persistence of that culture is evident in State failure to punish not only the killers of journalists but also those of human rights defenders, political and social activists, priests, reformist local officials, and judges and lawyers.

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